tv C-SPAN Weekend CSPAN February 5, 2011 6:00am-7:00am EST
you leave you seem to be a coward. you seem to be in flight. mubarak is anything but a coward. this is a military man. he loves his country. he has done a great many things for his country in the past. in my view, he has lost touch in the last five years or so. he used to reach out to people to get their opinions and try to take those opinions into account to get a sense of what the people were thinking. i think the circle around him has gotten tighter and tighter. they have insulated him from the people, maybe even his age is beginning to have an impact as well. but in any event, he is not walking out the door tomorrow. he is determined. he believes that if the leaves, is it will collapse and go into chaos. this is not some figment of his
imagination. he believes this very intently. he believes he can help egypt come out of this chaos. he sought to end el omar suleiman with the authority to represent him, but suleiman, having been in the intelligence corps for decades, really does not represent the army directly. he was considered to be tainted because of his long service of mubarak. he is not accepted as an alternative. he was initially rebuffed by the rioters. he was rebuffed by the muslim brotherhood. he was rebuffed by the opposition.
some of that opposition appears to be disappearing. more and more people are willing to talk to him work through him to the regime. that is in the hopes he can persuade mubarak to take the message and to leave. the positions seem to be moderating. the muslim brotherhood has been saying the right things. it is not a revolutionary organization. it is run by a bunch of old man like me. they are not really interested in rebellion or revolution. it was to have a part and a say in what ever comes in the future. i think it is a mistake to believe the threats of mubarak and some others that the muslim brotherhood is the same thing virtually as inviting osama bin laden. it is not that way. the brotherhood is no longer -- i think it was at one point -- a revolutionary organization. it is a evolutionary organization. they want a religious complexion for the state, but they can live in a context of a
multi-faction the government without challenging or threatening the ultimate situation in egypt. they have opened the door in any event. they have one really serious problem. all of these comparisons to iran in 1979 are not really taking a hard look at what is the situation in egypt. egypt is not iran. there is no idle waiting in the wings to bring this ideology and charisma to the people, to galvanize them and bring them forward into the egyptian masses. there is no equivalent that can galvanize were bring about a coherent opposition to mubarak.
i do not think that the people who try to wave the flag and say they have to do something to save mubarak otherwise we would get the islamist fundamentalists in egypt -- it is not going to happen. look at the way the military is handling this. it is threading a very careful path. it has been out around the crowd. it has not suppressed the demonstrations. it has retained its rigidity in the overall complexion of what will come next. it has taken enough of a position so that the crowd welcomes it still. they do not grow by lead. they do not throw stones at them. the symbol of the military, the field marshal who is the millet
-- the minister of defense, waited into the crowd yesterday and was welcomed by the crowd. i think the military is very clearly part of the solution to the problem for the egyptians. i am quite sure that omar suleiman does not want to be president. in all my contacts with them, it does not seem to be his style. he is quite happy to be in the background to be a loyal participant in running the state, but not a leader. he is not try to take the position on for himself. he is a wonderful man and a lot of fun. his wife does not want him to be president of egypt. it is not an easy job. so, the reception of the
military still seems to be solid. they still have that position that they can influence the future. certainly our secretary of defense and our military figures, the people who have worked with the egyptian for years, have been in constant contact. the relationship is so tight and the french ships are tied -- friendship so tight, that we have good relations with the military. not so with the security forces. the military is where we have our primary support. i do not worry about the future if they have a place in whatever comes next. the administration is being careful most of the time.
they do not want to get out in front of the egyptians. they certainly stumble in their initial reactions to these events. there was no excuse for the vice president to deny that mubarak was a dictator. it was rather strange that the secretary of state was suggesting that this was a stable regime where we can look at the television and see it was not a stable regime. most governments are not very responsive to events. it takes them a little while to figure out where things are going and what to do about it. i think they have come around. i think they understand it is not possible for mubarak to put the genie back in the box. the last to leave. the questions now are the conditions of leaving. it is not just mubarak. there has to be constitutional changes. there has to be a new political structure. it is going to take some time. the trick is to find a way to get action quickly enough so the people find it to be credible.
that is what was wrong with the way mubarak reacted to this. he said some of the right things. i am not going to run for reelection. my son is not one to run. but nobody believes him. he has lost credibility with the vast majority of egyptians. the concern being that until you actually change the constitution, until you disband the ndp, until you have a bar's signed a to london and stay there, everything will go back to the way it was. until you actually change the constitution, until you disbanded the mdp, until you have mubarak's son go to london and stay there, everything will go back to the way it was. they are very much afraid that the game plan was to wait this thing out, just to stand pat, do not get too excited. do not show weakness. do not confront the crowd. stand by your guns and it will
disappear. these people will get tired. they will get hungry. if he thinks that, he ought to take a look at what has bullet -- what hezbollah did in lebanon and the camping out they had for -- how many months was that? the egyptian protesters have the ability to sustain this operation so long as they have the army in a position where it is not going to go in with tanks. mubarak is wrong if he thinks this is just going to go away and he will step in and restore his position. in reality, the future will be defined by the military more than by anybody. it is not a dictatorial kind of group. it is a traditional military leadership.
they have a strong sentiments of loyalty and patriotism. they have fought wars for israel, against israel, and for egypt. they have died for egypt. they will be sustained as a group. i do not believe they have ambitions to take over the country in a military dictatorship. it is not their style. they do not strike me as being built that way. doneak's statements have very little to assuage the demands of the crowds. his statements to christianna amanpour -- a friend told me it was typical dictator [bleep]. [laughter]
he said a few things that could be interpreted as being a new, but nothing definitive. everything was left open. the way back for him was left open. in addition to this, most of the people i talked to are absolutely convinced that it was mubarak who put the thugs out into the streets and the camels out into the streets. there were vicious attacks against the crowds and vicious attacks against the media as if they can close down the media. these guys must never have heard of [unintelligible] you cannot control it anymore. i am quite sure that the crowds can find its way around censorship.
the real problems i see the egyptians facing is that mubarak's departure will not create one job. it will not put bread on anybody's table. it will not lower the rate of inflation. problems in egypt are fundamental or systemic. they are certainly a part of mubarak as a symbol of problems. but you cannot solve them by elimination of one man. it will take more work and more time to start to show real improvement. the first thing people have to do is restore the confidence of the economy and the future of egypt. you have got moodys downgrading egypt to negative. the estimates for the
demonstrations are costing egypt $310 million every day. the estimate of growth has been revised from 3.7% to 5.3% due to the instability. these figures will make it even harder to provide jobs or direct investment and the kind of stability people really want to have in egypt. the new crowd coming in as a huge job. first of all, to restore confidence in the community. if it comes in with an anti- business agenda, everyone will suffer. i had the strong impression -- the military has more companies and factories than any other sector of the economy. they are not exactly immune to what business requires.
they may be immune to the kind of legal structure needed to encourage it. in the short-term, there can be shortages. there will be other problems that will come up. i think the military is in a good position to provide stockpiles that are available to take care of these shortages. at least for a time. that will play to their strength. it will also play, however, to the strength of the muslim brotherhood to has a structure capable of providing resources to the poorest people. the estimates of the brotherhood's and packed under the worst possible terms probably run around 40% of the boat. -- 40% of the vote. that seems to be exaggerated.
the figures i have heard or about 20%. it all depends on how this thing comes out in the end. mind you, egypt is a very religious society. it is not a theocracy in any sense of the word. it is not inclined towards theocracy. but egyptians are pious. i reset pupil of egyptians -- a recent poll of egyptians highlighted the fact that 85% of the population has a positive view of is long's influence on politics. only 22% had 8-8 v. -- only 2% had a negative view. they want as long engaged in the policy. however, 61% of the population are somewhat or very concerned about islamic extremism in egypt.
they do not want the extreme form of islam. they want the pious form of islam. they want to feel that their religion is a constructive, not destructive. what about the impact on other arab cities? we saw the spark fly from tunisia to egypt. certainly, it will fly elsewhere. that is the concern. it is, to my view, somewhat exaggerated. the conditions are different in each of the countries involved. saudi arabia and the gulf states have all the resources necessary can take care of short-term shortages or concerns of the population. they can in some senses by their way out, but they are not unpopular to start with. no one is calling for the head of the king of saudi arabia. the popular -- the popularity factor is not -- jordan is certainly more vulnerable. the king has fired the principal target of the
discontent. the king is not as popular as the used to be, but he still has stature. the jordanians do not want to throw away the symbol of the monarchies. it is the symbol of the monarchies that has helped the state together. most of us need to understand that if they can what to avoid the chaos in egypt, they have to have that simple. -- they have to have that simple. i do not see a revolution in jordan, although the jordanians will pay a lot more attention to creating jobs and other things. that could be a good thing. anchor was certainly directed at -- anchor was certainly directed at the former prime minister and the new prime minister seems to have a better standing with the populace.
algeria and libya, syria -- these guys have no compunction about using military force to stop people. if mubarak had had the ability to command the army to go in and shoot those protesters from the beginning, he probably could have put this down very quickly. he did not had that ability because the army would not do it. there is a difference between the army in egypt, which is of the people and believes it is of the people, and the algerian army to as a long experience of doing things to its own people. the libyans or the same way. the syrians certainly. i lived there for a while. the example of egypt is not going to spread like prairie fire throughout the middle east.
the key is to try and help shape the nature of that fire in egypt itself. foreigners have to be very careful. the egyptian military does not like people telling it what to do, particularly how to run their country. the egyptian people do not like foreigners telling people what to do. they feel empowered now more than ever before. they feel they have the ability to shape their own future. this is extraordinary. it is what the most hopeful things to come out of this. people sitting in the square, helping each other, standing watch at night. one of my friends takes is a cricket bat out every night and stands guard. it is not a weapon of choice for me, but you might prefer that one. [laughter] >> we used them in beirut.
[laughter] >> it is a sense of accomplishment. that is a very important thing. we get it. we never thought we could do it, but we did it. president obama did it. it is not hosni mubarak who did it -- we the people did it. that feeling is profoundly important for the future of egypt. if the egyptians take charge of their own future and take responsibility for their own problems, there is a much better chance that we will all be able to work together to solve those problems. one of my friends takes is a cricket bat out every night and stands guard. it is not a weapon of choice for me, but you might prefer that one. [laughter] >> we used them in beirut. [laughter] >> it is a sense of accomplishment. that is a very important thing. we get it. we never thought we could do it,
but we did it. president obama did it. it is not hosni mubarak who did it -- we the people did it. that feeling is profoundly important for the future of egypt. if the egyptians take charge of their own future and take responsibility for their own problems, there is a much better chance that we will all be able to work together to solve those problems. i do not see how this situation comes out in the final analysis. until you actually change the constitution, until you disbanded the mdp, until you have mubarak's son go to london and stay there, everything will go back to the way it was. they are very much afraid that the game plan was to wait this thing out, just to stand pat, do not get too excited. do not show weakness. stand by your guns and it will disappear. these people will get tired. they will get hungry. if he thinks that, he ought to take a look at what has bullet did in lebanon and the camping out they had for -- how many months was that? the egyptian protesters have the ability to sustain this operation so long as they have the army in a position where it is not going to go in with tanks. mubarak is wrong if he thinks this is just going to go away and he will step in and restore his position. in reality, the future will be defined by the military more than by anybody. it is not a dictatorial kind of group. it is a traditional military leadership. they have a strong sentiments of loyalty and patriotism. they have fought wars for israel, against israel, and for egypt. they have died for egypt. they will be sustained as a group. i do not believe they have ambitions to take over the country in a military dictatorship. it is not their style. they do not strike me as being
built that way. dangers of being seen as intervening or interfering? what balance does the u.s. and europe need to follow as they died mubarak and other leaders towards making reforms? -- as they guide mubarak and other leaders towards making reforms? >> mubarak has said he will die on egyptian soil. i do not think that is him saying he will commit suicide. it is not a dictatorial kind of group. it is a traditional military leadership. they have a strong sentiments of
loyalty and patriotism. they have fought wars for israel, against israel, and for egypt. they have died for egypt. they will be sustained as a group. i do not believe they have ambitions to take over the country in a military dictatorship. it is not their style. they do not strike me as being built that way. mubarak's statements have done very little to assuage the demands of the crowds. his statements to christianna amanpour -- a friend told me it was typical dictator [bleep]. [laughter] he said a few things that could be interpreted as being a new, but nothing definitive. the way back for him was left open. in addition to this, most of the people i talked to are absolutely convinced that it was mubarak who put the thugs out into the streets and the camels out into the streets. there were vicious attacks against the crowds and vicious attacks against the media as if they can close down the media. these guys must never have heard of [unintelligible] you cannot control it anymore. i am quite sure that the crowds can find its way of realm censorship. -- find its way around sister ship. the real problems i see the egyptians facing is that mubarak's departure will not create one job. it will not put bread on anybody's table. it will not lower the rate of inflation. problems in egypt are fundamental or systemic. they are certainly a part of mubarak as a symbol of problems. but you cannot solve them by elimination of one man. it will take more work and more time to start to show real improvement. the first thing people have to do is restore the confidence of the economy and the future of egypt. you have got moodys downgrading egypt to negative.
the estimates for the demonstrations are costing egypt $310 million every day. >> it is clear that most western leaders are encouraging mubarak to step down. the trick for them is to do it in such a way he does not look like -- it does not look like american or western interference and it does not dismay friends of the west and elsewhere, not just in the middle east, to think that we abandon our friends when they get into difficulties. there is a national expectation and international expectation that governments will do something and say something.
the european union was supposed to be saying something this afternoon. i have not yet heard what it is. the question is to go beyond went mubarak should go -- what happens next? it would be a minor miracle at the tunisian experience so far is replicated in egypt with a competent government taking steps to do things to meet the grievances of the people and the aspirations of the people. in egypt you have a big question mark -- will the army really want, if they take over, -- if you look at the demonstrators, you'll see most of them are young. if you look at the egyptian leadership, they are old enough to be the protester's grandparents. there used to be a joke that you could not be an approved leader of an opposition party unless you were old. it is becoming harder and harder to meet the qualification. [laughter] the muslim brotherhood leadership is also old. i ask myself, if mubarak wet, the next administration -- will there be more demands to get rid of the old figures from the previous regime? we saw this in tunis. >> we have a question here in the front.
wait for the microphone please. >> thank you very much for your views on tunisia and egypt. for ambassador goulty, there is no european union in the middle east. this is why we know that the you place a very important role in eastern europe, but we have egypt surrounded by dictatorships like libya. that puts a tunisian democracy in a very dangerous place. i would like to hear your view on the factors in tunisia. we do not know until now the outcome of the constitutional reform.
with my contacts in tunisia, the -- they want to change the system to be like the uk or turkey. i think that would make more problems for the tunisian parliament. [unintelligible] that will lead to an interference from other neighbors. >> thank you. let's take another question. we have a lady in the back. >> i am a photographer. my question is how big of a role do our feelings here in the
u.s. -- i mean, our government -- does israel play? i do feel that we have been a little bit slow getting on board supporting the egyptian people because we are concerned with israel and its cancer -- and its security and what israel wants. a lot of people probably know that sadat was loved by a lot of their own people. al-jazeera was going to release some papers to show what was really going on. >> thank you very much. >> the need for the people --
the general people as opposed to the government's wishes and where they should stand. >> be what the tunisia question? -- do you want the tunisia question? >> i was hoping to be relieved. [laughter] thank you for your questions. i think the european -- european union is present in tunisia and egypt. we have agreements that offer the prospect of opening wider markets to both countries. with regards to possible libyan and algerian interference in tunisia, it is possible. tunis is very careful to be balancing -- it is a small country caught between two big and unpredictable countries. certainly they have enough problems at home not to take on
the lot in tunisia. as regards changes in the political system, it is too early to say. the british system of two parties. it is not clear where the two parties are coming from in tunisia. what is clear is that political reform will be actively discussed and the opposition will be seeking to organize and build support. as regards the question on israel, let me say very briefly that there is no doubt that sentiment on the street is more hostile to israel than almost all arab governments. i remember a tunisian minister saying to me -- you have to realize that our foreign policy
is deeply unpopular in regards to israel. that is one estes of the tunisian minister understanding of what is being said on the streets. >> there is no question that israel is not the most popular institution anywhere in the arab world, but particularly not in egypt. egypt has a long history of being disappointed by israel. everybody talks about the peace and held that disappointed israelis. the egyptians were equally disappointed. it was the opening for the past resolution of the palestinian situation. they were discouraged. shortly after the treaty with egypt, you had the invasion of lebanon. egyptians have good reason to have lost confidence that the
peace treaty was a great for them. the one exception to that is the military. the military thinks it is a great peace treaty. it has relieved -- people think of it as relieving israel of threat, the egyptians think a bit as relieving it of a threat from israel. they fought several wars with israel. this was an opportunity to recover the suez canal, which is a big money earner. it gave them the oil fields. it gave them a tourist mecca. half of the tourist sites are owned by ex military people. so long as the military is involved, i do not see any effort to undo that treaty. that treaty is pretty substantial. it has survived incredible stresses.
as the population reacted to israeli actions. that is not to say that israel cannot help the process. as a new government forms -- i am sure one will form. if there is a way that israel can open up the dialogue with the palestinians, that will help. it will give people in the region encouragement. it does not mean they have to give away the store, but it does mean they have to be reasonable in terms of listening to other positions and making compromises where compromises can be made. that is what happened at camp david. it was coming together to find common interests. there are plenty of common interest between the israeli people and the egyptian people. i think and i hope that this will not mark a substantial
change in the overall relationship. i do not think the egyptian people are going to embrace israel tomorrow. it is not what to happen, but israel, thus far, has played this thing very well. that is unusual. [laughter] they have kept their mouths shut. they have let it go. they had been watching carefully and they are certainly making contingency plans and everything else. i think they have done a very smart thing in the way they have managed this. prime minister netanyahu has given the egyptians freedom to make their own choices and to move forward without having to react to outside pressures and reactions. we have been less sensitive than the israelis, actually.
some of the things that we have said. >> great. we will take a couple more questions. >> thank you. i have two quick questions. the first one deals with what was just said. there does not seem to be a spokesman do scenes to be generally accepted by the rebellious people. since the army, as you say, has spent behaving so well, do you not they from the point of view of what you just said about israel and the fact that the army is quite respected and pleased by the general revolutionaries, that someone in the military might be the proper spokesman for the revolution? my second question has to do with economic development in egypt. i have heard that china, for one, is going to build some dams in the upper region, not in egypt itself, but the further reaches of the nile.
if they were to be built, they would deprive it of its major resource becky's the country fertile. >> thank you. >> thanks to both of you for a very insightful and sober evaluation. i am particularly glad that you emphasized the constructive role the moderate islamist are likely to play. i am not particularly a fan. i teach israeli studies at the university of maryland, but i think they absolutely have to be part and it has to be
accepted by the u.s. and the west. my question is, do you think this perception is gaining any ground in this country and europe given the demonization of all islamists in the last 10 and work years -- 10 and more years? if we attempt to keep the brotherhood out of the process, it will do ourselves and egypt a lot of damage. briefly, do you think omar suleiman will be allowed and it is he able to play a role like
gorbachev in reining in a repressive regime? >> i think the mood in this country is getting more sophisticated. it is not there, yet. i think people can distinguish between good muslims and that muslims, if you will. i think there has been a lot of work done by the administration to highlight that. not everybody is osama bin laden just because they have an islamic faith. i think most people in this country now understand that. i do not see die-hard opposition to having the muslim brotherhood playing a part in the egyptian government.
after all, we have accepted that in jordan for years. the muslim brotherhood is part of the assembly. it has been elected. it is true in a couple of other places. i do not think the problem will be our people. at onto this the fact that now you have one of the leaders joining the crowd in the square. i cannot remember his name. he has been the spokesman and as suddenly resigned his position to join the people in tahir square. i think that is a stunning statement. it also will help relieve this edge of fear about the muslim
brotherhood or islamic fundamentalism. i think that is one of the key things. the nile and china building dams -- i had been told by military people in egypt that the military would not accept that because egypt cannot accept change in its proportion of the nile waters. this is an existential problems for egypt. this is not one where the military as a lot of flexibility or feels a lot of flexibility. that is why we need to focus on -- there is still time and lots of negotiations about this. there has been no real breakthrough on this subject. suleiman will play a role, there is no question about it.
he is a very impressive died. he is very -- he is a very impressive guy. he is very close to our intelligence agencies. he is very bright and moderate in his views. i think he will play a role, but he will probably not play the pivotal role because that will come out of the regular army itself. we do not even know all the players there. >> alan, do you want to address the question of the muslim brotherhood? >> the political correctness in this town -- i have dealt a lot with sudan. i would just comment a little bit. yes, there are plans for the chinese to build dams. one of them is already under construction. yes, it will lead to an additional loss of water
through evaporation. it is not at all an environment where someone was to create a large, flat surface for water to be evaporated. nevertheless, it is true that under the existing nile waters agreement, sudan does not use its full quota. i do not take quite such a tragic view. egypt will make a huge fuss if it does not receive its full quota, but there is no reason to suppose that will not happen. the greater threat, in my view, is further upstream if the ethiopians start banning and taking a lot more water. on a moderate islam, i agree with the company we have just heard.
i think it is for you to tell me whether the idea of talking to moderates is gaining ground. i see some pretty vigorous expression of opinion in the editorial pages of the post. i think it will be a major mistake for the west to start interfering in other people's newly democratic policies to try to influence the victory of one party or another or to demonize one party rather than another. if the two nations and egyptians and others choose to elect islamist to their governments, we will have to find a way of dealing effectively with the results. that is what we do in jordan and morocco. >> great. let's take three more questions.
we have a fellow in the back with a blue and white shirt. the fellow behind him and then david. >> i am with the international council with relief studies. imagine that the muslim brotherhood has the infrastructure to deal with shortages should they occur in egypt. do they have the motivation to see that coming and what would be the effect on their power within the electorate? >> i cannot keep these questions in line. i things it is important to make the distinction. they have the resources to alleviate the problems from a small sector of society, not society as a whole. they do not have those kinds of resources. their trademark is to go out into poorer sectors of the economy and make the difference, the add-on to what the government already does.
they get credit for doing so. i would suspect under the circumstances they would do the same thing. but they cannot replace the government stores or supplies. they cannot replace the distribution system of the army. it will give them a little boost, but it will not be major revolutionary change. >> david? >> i think the first statement that sounded to me like they -- like a u.s. government inspired statement was like senator kerry in the new york times. i thought that was probably what we were telling the egyptians privately. that was that president mubarak, you can really serve your country like the good nationalist that you are by stepping aside gracefully.
the stepping aside gracefully, is that the kind of formula that could include going to where he was spending a lot of time and just retiring even if he keeps the title of president? would that satisfy, do you think, the obama administration? would it satisfy the leaders of the egyptian opposition? would it be the sort of thing the egyptian army would like to see happen? >> i do not think it would satisfy the opposition. the opposition has been that everything on its ability to change the regime. that means getting rid of mubarak. he is a symbol of all sorts of things. he has been unfairly characterized in many cases. he is a symbol of oppression. he is a symbol of secret police. he is a symbol of torture.
the is a symbol of deprivation, although i do not think that is his fault. there is no way that can be accommodated within any structure you might imagine. that does not mean that he could not retire and give up the presidency and let someone else take it over. he could be treated with reverence and deference and so on. everybody could go down there and paid him homage. the constitution has to be changed. he has to be changed. there has to be political parties established. a whole series of events have to take place. >> thank you. there is a question in the back. >> i am with the national democratic institute. i was wondering in terms of possible names for the army who
might be possible successors to mubarak, do any of you gentlemen have any at directions which the chief of staff for the military? what can you tell us about his possible presidential aspirations or anything about him? thank you. >> one of the problems with dealing with the egyptian military when you are an ambassador, you deal with them through the top man. when i talk to the military, i talked to the leader. the way the egyptian system works, they never open their mouths. they listened and you then they make their points behind the scenes. they do not do it in public. there is none of this public scrabbling that we do so readily in this country. there needs to be a voice to represent a consensus.
my experience with the egyptian military is that they are very professional. they are very loyal. they are nationalists in the sense that they want to do the right thing for egypt. they have been loyal to mubarak as president, but as president, not as a man. that is the distinction one has to keep in mind. i have confidence that coming up to the system -- he is of that mold and will be an asset for the egyptians as we move forward. >> do we had a tunisia question? if not -- there is a gentleman back here. that is all right. we do not have seemed to -- we do not seem to have any tunisia questions. >> we need you on a microphone. we have a lot of cameras in the room.
>> i offer an opportunity for penance. do you gentlemen wish to confess that you made errors during your tenure as in egypt or tunisia? is there anything you might have done differently during your time there? >> good question. >> there is always stuck you can do differently. the question is what you are putting your emphasis on and the priorities you face at any given time. we have had a lot of dealings with egypt over a long period of time. we have as some successful dealings, such as the peace treaty with israel. we have helped develop a military that is modern and professional. it is actually standing in the streets now as a moderating force in this crisis.
i think they have taken a very responsible role. while i argue that this a ministration should not take credit for things like that, it still has something to do with the communications and we have had and the training we have had of the military. if it is a force for good, we have had a part in that. we also, while i was in egypt, was pressing the concept of economic reform, reform of the legal structure, trying to enhance the businesses. we thought that was the important thing to do. did we do enough for democratic institution building? no. there was a bit of that in the first four years of the bush a administration. i thought it was fairly productive. indeed, a number of the non- governmental institutions in egypt at the time felt empowered because of the
position the bush administration was taken. -- was taking. it did not survive into the obama administration, although he tried to reignite that feeling in his speech in cairo. it was not really geared towards democracy. if we did make a mistake, i think it largely dealt with the fact that our programs while they were geared towards building institutions of democracy, maybe they were not aggressive enough. we were too easily dissuaded from events like changing the social welfare system and how non-governmental organizations are accredited and so on. we could have done more that way, but i am rather proud of the way we handle our
relationship with egypt up till now. >> alan? >> i think i would have preferred david's question. [laughter] when kate was sending me about this event, i said why do you not get david to do it? he is the real tunisian expert. i am sorry we had not had that exchange. i do not really do confessions. [laughter] i suppose it i am not very proud that now of efforts that were not successful to get closer to the pretty awful ben ali family. they were aloof and i got nowhere with them, although i did have a famous dinner that was described in one of those cables that was leaked.
[laughter] i do have regrets, though. regrets, really, that we were not able despite considerable effort either on the european side or bilaterally to have more impact on the petty abuses that once all two-out tunisia -- the restrictions on freedom of speech, the u. n meeting, for example, that was called off because opposition people had been invited to attend. it was suddenly announced that the hotel air-conditioning had failed. an important meeting could not be held in that hotel and no other hotel in the country was available on short notice. there were things like that that we could not be more vocal
about. i do not think it would have done much good. it might have caught short our stay in tunis and enabled us to settle rather earlier back in washington. i do not think it would have made much difference, but i do regret it. the other thing i do regret on a more personal level, the society -- it was possible to have a debate around the table with people from the opposition and government together. in tunis, we felt it was not possible. on every occasion which i to set one up, the guest would inquire who else was coming. if government people were coming, the opposition people would not because they would not be able to speak freely without fear of repercussions. on the other side, if the
government people heard an oppositionist had been invited, they were afraid of being rebuked and discredited from within their own system. that is a measure of the system we live under and i regret it. the it does seem, now, that in regions of all sorts, from all walks of life, are relishing a free press and the ability to talk freely. that is a good thing. >> it is important to remember that if you are the president of the country like tunisia or egypt, you develop a very thin skin. you do not appreciate it when foreigners criticize you. you certainly do not appreciate it when ambassadors criticize you. the bottom line is if you were publicly engaged in criticism of mubarak, you would not have been in egypt for very long. you would not have been kicked out because of the relationship
with the u.s., but you never get in the door again. what is the point of being an ambassador if you cannot get in the door? we have to lead it to the administration to make the outrageous statements that drive mubarak nuts. [laughter] or two senators schumer. it is a healthy part of our system. >> i am afraid we are out of time. i want to thank our panelists for their insights and observations. thank you, you all. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011]